Supporting Military Families with Respite Care
Rebekah Graham feels blessed. She has a loving family. She travels and enjoys life. She also has a job she wouldn’t trade for the world.
Rebekah provides respite care for military families who have a special needs child. She currently supports three Navy families in the Bremerton, WA area, providing up to 40 hours of care per family each month.
As a spouse to a military veteran and a parent, Rebekah knows firsthand some of the unique challenges her families face. She found herself alone raising kids and running a household when her husband was deployed to Iraq. They were living in Bremerton at the time, and Rebekah helped start a support group for other parents faced with similar circumstances.
Rebekah supported other parents by offering child care. One parent in need of care had a child with special needs.
“The mother asked if I would become a certified care provider for children with special needs,” Rebekah recalled. “I agreed to do it.”
In 2007, she completed training to become the ninth certified care provider for the Military Family Respite Care Program managed by LCS Northwest. The program is funded under a contract with Child Care Aware of America, explained administrative coordinator John Graham. He is also Rebekah’s husband.
Child Care Aware confirms a family’s eligibility for services before referring them to LCS Northwest. Program staff conduct an orientation with new families and match them with up to three child care providers based on their needs. Families choose provider(s) who will help them.
Currently, the program supports nearly 175 Navy and Air Force families residing in the Puget Sound region who need special needs respite care. LCS Northwest has 135 trained and certified care providers, Graham noted.
The Military Family Respite Care Program has been a lifesaver for Edgar and Michelle Hernandez. Parents to three active children, they have relied on Rebekah’s assistance for several years. Edgar serves in the Navy and Michelle just earned her master’s degree in social work.
Edgar and Michelle appreciate that we screen and train our respite care providers, and regularly monitor the level of care delivered. It reassures them that their child is safe.
The Hernandez family receives up to 40 hours of respite care each month at no cost. Rebekah often cares for the kids after school until a parent returns home from work. She has also cared for them while the couple keeps appointments or have a date night.
“Rebekah has been with us for three years and she has become part of our family. She reminds us that it’s important for us to take breaks away from the kids. It helps with our marriage,” Michelle said.
In her twelfth year of service, Rebekah continues to enjoy her work. The children she cares for are genuinely excited about life and the growth they experience. Her families are special to her as well.
“I’ve met many amazing families as a respite care provider. They’re culturally diverse, loving, and I learn from them,” Rebekah said. “It’s an honor to support these families.”
The Navy and Air Force families served by this program are widely scattered in the Puget Sound area, and there is an ongoing need for certified care providers. Visit our Military Family Respite Care Program page to learn how you can become a provider.